When Emily first ran Jade in my agility class I watched with growing concern as a massively powerful intact male golden retriever proceeded to express his frustration and high arousal in the only ways he knew how; by biting and body-slamming his handler. I had invited her to join my handling classes because I provide a safe environment for dogs with issues to practice agility, and I had been helping Emily work on some of Jade’s insecurities around other dogs.  Very quickly I realized that Jade’s troubles ran deeper than I’d been aware of.

So, we began. Emily stopped taking group classes, committed to frequent private lessons, and her success with this dog is entirely due to her (if, eventual) ability to go all-in and take care of him on every level, whether that meant tossing her goals in the trash or not.

Jade’s case is an extensive one, and I plan to release a podcast covering all the ins and outs in a hope that I might help other handlers and trainers to care for the intense dogs they encounter. I think this quote and video sum it up, thanks Emily for providing them!

Before I met Sarah, I did not think I could love a dog as much as I love Jade now. I did not think my heart was big enough. I did not understand that love is also the tears and the defeat and the fear… and the humility. Loving Jade has given me so many life skills: respect, perseverance, self-efficacy, and innovation. Sarah’s training program does this to you. You begin thinking you are training agility, and pretty soon you realize the skills she teaches you fuel your passion in all other aspects of life, whatever your passion may be. I have to credit a troubled one-year-old Golden Retriever for showing up in my life and a wise trainer for listening to us and giving me the courage to not give up on someone I love.